Pebblypoo's Flock

By Pebblypoo · Sep 17, 2015 · ·
  1. Pebblypoo
    Short story long.....I live in a rural area in north Idaho. My neighbor, 300 yards +/- away, has chickens. I have 3 dogs: Nyla, a 12 year old blue heeler mix; Lady, a 5 year old female shelter dog we got when she was 1 - She's a yellow lab/red heeler mix?; and Rylee, our 10 month old red heeler TERRORIST puppy.....Lady and Rylee made their way to the neighbor's one day and killed a chicken. A few weeks later, the neighbor came over on his 4 wheeler and went to his house for something and Rylee jumped on his 4 wheeler with him and went home with the neighbor. The neighbor came right back, but without Rylee. My husband and neighbor ran to neighbor's on 4 wheeler and Rylee was there and had killed another chicken. I decided (against hubby's wishes) we should get our own chickens to train dogs to stay home and not kill chickens. There has been an EMPTY chicken coop on our property since we moved here 20 years ago. Hubby didn't want chickens, no way no how! Deal was we would get 3 chickens, train the dogs, and then give chickens to neighbor. I fell in love with chickens. In 3 months 3 chickens have now turned into 17 by me collecting adult egg layers from Facebook yard sales. Dogs do fine with chickens now (killed one when we first started when grandkids let dogs into coop; hasn't happened since - about 3 months). Anyway, winter is coming and I'm concerned about my flock. I have 4 Norwegian Jaerhons, 2 Americanas, 3 cresteds, 2 sebrights, and six young (5 months?) mixed Americanas/Aerucanas, one of which is a rooster!!! (But I love him too, even thought I didn't want any roosters.....oops!)

    I'm going to hopefully post pictures of my coop. It is a long enclosed coop, split in half. The left half is the coop, the right half is storage for straw, food, Christmas lights,totes, etc. The inside middle is only divided by chicken wire. We plan on putting plastic up over the chicken wire. There is also an open "doorway" covered with chicken wire and a "window" also covered by chicken wire. We covered these "openings" to keep skunks, raccoons, bobcats, etc. out!! But come winter, they need to be covered with plastic and/or plywood. Then....there will be no outside light and chickens will be cooped up for winter. My concern is "light" and "cold". There is power to the coop and I have a 5 gallon chicken waterer and I just bought a "warmer" to put under it to keep it from freezing. I've heard bad things about heat lamps. I bought 2 red ones today but I'm going to return them. I think a regular light bulb turned on in the morning and turned out at night will suffice.......or will it? My coop is not "insulated". But once I cover the three (3) "openings", the coop will be fully "enclosed"......lots of quotes here, I know, but things are not exact!!! I'm hoping my pictures will help give you advice- givers a clearer picture. Also, I'm probably jumping around here a is on! Go SEAHAWKS!!!! (Denver is playing Kansas City at the Anyway.....will my coop be warm enough? Will there be drafts? Heat lamp or regular light bulb? I'm so worried about my girls (and Rooster Cogburn).....I'm new here and new at chicken farming. Please help as much as possible.....thanks!!!! Cluck, cluck, cocka doodle doo!!!

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  1. Keeper
    Hi Pebblypoo, how cold does it get where you are? Are you at a high elevation where it gets plenty cold? A lot of people on here are from very cold areas (like Maine) and many do not insulate or provide supplemental heat. They say the chickens adjust to the cold (unless it is very extreme) and the danger with supplemental heat (such as a heat lamp) is that one day the power may go out, and your chickens won't be used to the cold, and they'll freeze.

    The important thing is ventilation without drafts. The coop needs good ventilation, but up high, so where the chickens are down below the drafts are kept to a minimum. So- cover up those openings, no cracks! But make sure there is really good ventilation above their heads.

    Good ventilation is important because of chickens' delicate respiratory systems and because the danger of frostbite is higher if the indoor air is too humid from their poop and breathing. A dry indoor chicken house is important. If you are worried your chickens are showing signs of frostbite, some people swear by Vaseline. They rub a bit of it on the combs of the chickens where they are prone to it.

    If you really want a heat source but don't want to use a red heat lamp, one thing to consider is an infrared, 100 watt bulb like people use for their lizards. You could find one online or at a petstore. Some people do use them for chickens but I haven't tried it yet myself. In the end it will save a lot of money from energy compared to a 250 watt red bulb, and be a lot safer. I imagine it would work better than a regular bulb, and theoretically you could have it on all night without the light bothering the chickens when they are trying to sleep. Again, though, the chickens should be fine without it as long as there are no drafts.

    Some people swear by the deep litter bedding method as a source for heat, as well. The idea is that the decomposing bedding at the bottom of the pile lets off heat. This works best if the floor of your coop is dirt and you have active chickens that scratch and stir the bedding up for you, which is required for the whole thing to work properly. I started off with the deep litter method but gave it up because it was too stinky and messy. I was on plywood, though. I talked to a few people and did more reading and came to the conclusion that the dirt is important for adding the right microbes. You might find it works for you.

    You could try clear sheets of hard plastic (plexiglass?) screwed up over the openings to block the wind but let in light. I saw different sizes at my local big box home hardware store that I'm going to try this winter.

    You say your chickens will be cooped up this winter. Do you have an enclosed run where they can run around safely outside without supervision? Will you free range them sometimes? Just curious. They might get stressed if they never get to go out. They definitely need natural sunlight in the henhouse if they are not going to get out much. Chickens need Vitamin D too.

  2. Brookliner
    First you don't want to cover those openings, you need plenty of ventilation even and especially during the winter. Judt make sure that the roosts are well below the windows so there is no draft blowing on your chickens. Please read up on ventilation in the forum section. Look at some of the coops on the coop pages to see how others have arranged things and prepare for winter and predators. Good luck.

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